Main Contents Page

Before you start



Searching techniques:

- Boolean Logic

- Truncation/wildcards

- Phrase searching

Information finding tools:


- Webbridge

- Databases (incl CD Roms)

- Internet

- Dewey (DDC)

Information sources:

- Dictionaries

- Encyclopaedias

- Atlases

- Almanacs & yearbooks

- Books

- Periodicals/Journals

- Newspapers

- Audio-visual

- Internet

- Grey literature

- Broadcast media

- Conference proceedings

- Maps

- Government publications

- Standards

- Museums

- Archives

- Quiz


STEP 4: Legal and ethical USE


What is truncation?

Truncation means to cut off a point or to shorten. When used with keywords, it means to keep the stem of the key words and "cut" everything else away, leaving it out.

Let's look at some examples to illustrate the meaning:

Say you want information about politics, politicians, politician and political - these words all have the same stem "politi". Instead of searching each word seperately, you can search them all at once by using truncation. You have to add a "wildcard" to the stem of the word for the databases to recognise that you are using truncation. These "wildcards" are usually one of the following symbols: * (asterisk), ? (question mark), # (hash) or + (plus). The most common one is the * (asterisk).

  • Some databases will recognise the * and others the ?, # or +. Look at the "Help" function of each database to see which symbol (wildcard) you should use for that particular database.

Also note that some wildcards can replace more than one letter, while others can be used to replace a single letter only. An example of the latter is organi*ations, where the * (wildcard) allows both the British and American spellings. In a system in which the * can replace more than one letter, col*r will retrieve color and colour.

When you type politi* (stem + wildcard) you will retrieve all documents with the following words:

  politi   cs  
  politi   cians  
politi cian
politi cal
politi cally

By using truncation you will get more search results.

BE CAREFUL not to truncate a keyword too soon, otherwise you will receive many unwanted results. For example: if you truncated the above example at polit* in stead of politi*, you would also receive search results on polite, politesse, polity, etc.

Truncation can alse be very useful if you are not sure how to spell a word. Type all the letters that you are sure of and add your wildcard.